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Essex man meets family of woman who gave him second life through transplant

The combined family: back from left, Doug Jerdo, Debbie Jerdo, Linda Buttery, Pam Drollette, Rich Drollette, front from left, Robby Drollette, Lisa Szewczyk, Harold “Junie” Tart, Leslie Cowty and Aliceson Drollette.

The combined family: back from left, Doug Jerdo, Debbie Jerdo, Linda Buttery, Pam Drollette, Rich Drollette, front from left, Robby Drollette, Lisa Szewczyk, Harold “Junie” Tart, Leslie Cowty and Aliceson Drollette. Photo by Keith Lobdell.

— So, Tart’s family reached out and received a letter back. The two sides communicates once again, and that is when the stories of Junie Tart and the family of Linda Reilly came together.

"You had to have corresponded with each other at least twice before they will let the families had open communication,” Szewczyk said. “We responded to each other a few times, but then we lost contact for several years.”

That changed when Szewczyk and her sister received a card from Drollette on the anniversary of her father’s surgery, Aug. 24 of this year.

“I got the card and I wrote back and it evolved into me asking Leslie if she wanted to go to New York,” Szewczyk said.

For Cowty, it was a more difficult decision.

“When the letters were coming in, I was the one that could not handle it,” she said. “My first reaction was, what are we going to say.”

On Nov. 2, Cowty and Szewczyk landed at the Burlington International Airport, just moments after Linda Buttery, another of Tart’s daughters.

“We met, hugged each other and immediately started sharing,” Buttery said. “It was really awesome. I am a gabber, especially when I get nervous, and we just talked and talked.”

Over the next three days, the two families got to know each other, talk about Linda Reilly and the life that Junie Tart has had thanks to his new liver.

“I feel a lot better because I feel that her liver went to the perfect person,” Cowty said about Tart. “He is hilarious, a super down-to-earth person and has an amazing family.”

“You do not understand why things happen the when they do, but then you go through this and it kind of makes sense,” Szewczyk said.

“It’s priceless,” Drollette said about the visit. “It was such a hard journey to get to this point. I feel like these two have become my sisters. Since the first time I got off the phone with Lisa, I told my husband that I felt like I had known her forever.”

Drollette said that she was also happy that her children - daughter Aliceson and son Robby - had been able to meet the people whose sister had helped their grandfather.

“Aliceson has bonded with both of them just in the short time they have been here,” Drollette said.

For Tart, the initial nerves of meeting the sisters soon vanished.

“I was a little nervous at first,” Tart said. “After I got to meet them and get to talk with them, I was not so nervous.”

“I think he likes ‘em,” Drollette said.

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